Are Women Human?

Are Women Human?

by Catharine A. MacKinnon

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More than half a century after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defined what a human being is and is entitled to, Catharine MacKinnon asks: Are women human yet? She exposes the consequences and significance of the systematic maltreatment of women and its systemic condonation as she points toward fresh ways of targeting its toxic orthodoxies. A critique of the


More than half a century after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defined what a human being is and is entitled to, Catharine MacKinnon asks: Are women human yet? She exposes the consequences and significance of the systematic maltreatment of women and its systemic condonation as she points toward fresh ways of targeting its toxic orthodoxies. A critique of the transnational status quo that also envisions the transforming possibilities of human rights, this bracing book makes us look as never before at an ongoing war too long undeclared.

Editorial Reviews

The Nation

A sparkling book, perhaps her finest. Unsettling in the best sort of way, Are Women Human? shows [MacKinnon] to be not only a prodigiously creative feminist thinker who can see the world from a fresh angle like nobody else (and I mean the angle of reality, as opposed to the usual one of half-reality) but also one of our most creative thinkers about international law. As elsewhere in MacKinnon's work, we find plenty of trenchant and eloquent writing; but we also find more systematic analysis and more extensive scholarship than we sometimes get, and the book is the richer for it. MacKinnon's central theme, repeatedly and convincingly mined, is the hypocrisy of the international system when it faces up to some crimes against humanity but fails to confront similar harms when they happen to women, often on a daily basis...Are Women Human? is a major contribution both to feminism and to international law...By casting herself as a peace-builder, MacKinnon issues a pointed challenge to her adversaries, who boringly stereotype her as a fierce amazon on the warpath against male liberties. This book is indeed fierce, unrelenting in its naming of abuse and hypocrisy. In a world where women pervasively suffer violence, however, it takes the fierceness of good theory to move us a little closer to peace.
Martha Nussbaum


In this collection of essays, the pioneering feminist lawyer calls for international laws to protect women from the denial of property rights, the deployment of rape in war and other brutalities that flow from male oppression.

The Guardian

[MacKinnon] is undeniably one of feminism's most significant figures, a ferociously tough-minded lawyer and academic who has sought to use the law to clamp down on sexual harassment and pornography.
Stuart Jeffries

Times Literary Supplement

Catharine A. MacKinnon is the world's leading feminist legal theorist, and her work over the past three decades has helped create an entire field of theorizing about gender, the State, and law. Along with the late Andrea Dworkin, MacKinnon has also become one of the major thinkers and activists on the issue of women's rights in the global arena, particularly regarding the way in which enduring distinctions between the public and the private spheres (in areas such as pornography, for example) sustain a matrix of inequality and exploitation. In this collection of previously published essays and public lectures, MacKinnon focuses on the international legal dimensions of feminist theory. She asks how international law, specifically international human rights protections, might be structured to take account of the uniqueness of crimes against women.
Charles King

South China Morning Post

To refer to Catharine A. MacKinnon--the author of 11 brilliant and theoretically rigorous books, professor of law at the University of Michigan, and a fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study at Stanford--as a feminist scholar is somewhat like describing her as a bookish blonde: accurate, but also a little ridiculous. MacKinnon is a towering figure on the world stage, far beyond categorisations that in application, trigger derision or marginalisation. The leitmotif of her work is the correction of social injustice, and her role in shaping perception of quotidian iniquities, incalculable...She has dedicated her life to creating a world in which we all accept, or are made to accept, responsibility for the dignity and wellbeing of our fellows. Are Women Human? only furthers her success.
Antonella Gambotto-Burke

New York Law Journal Magazine

Ms. MacKinnon provides numerous vivid and intensely disturbing examples of governments, through overt action or callous indifference, treating women as less than human and, thus, denying women their human rights...She is seeking to effect legal change on a global scale.
Kay E. Wilde


Over the past 25 years, Catharine MacKinnon has changed the face of feminist legal theory. A law professor at the University of Michigan, she is, as one reviewer notes, 'a famously polarizing figure'...A new collection of MacKinnon's speeches and writings, Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues takes note of the political work she has done in Canada, the U.S., and abroad, and asserts her recent approach to accountability in the global human rights arena. Discussing ritualized forms of violence conducted by military forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina and other regions, she argues that international human rights measures can be applied to halt such forms of violence against women.
Susan G. Cole

Ethics & International Affairs

MacKinnon's writing is astonishingly powerful, combining a compelling air of authority and outrage with a sense of despair at the enormity of women's domination by men. It is hard to disagree with her central thesis that much violence against women has the severity of a human rights violation. Moreover, MacKinnon provides a compelling critique of the doctrine that only states can violate international law, and that only transborder atrocities merit international intervention...Are Women Human? is a book that deserves to be widely read. It contains important empirical and legal analysis of particular conflicts...It develops MacKinnon's own feminist philosophy, building on the approach developed in her earlier works and demonstrating how feminism should respond to international issues. And it engages directly with contemporary debates about culture, global justice, human rights, international law, and the demands of equality.
Clare Chambers

Product Details

Harvard University Press
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What People are saying about this

Any work from Catharine MacKinnon is bound to be provocative and exciting. Here is a feast, a collection of work showing how the author's ideas about women's rights have developed over 20 years. The simple question "are women human?" leads us to see more clearly a male dominated world which, since time immemorial, has tolerated, condoned and even encouraged gender based violence and abuse. No area is spared the damning spotlight, from sexual harassment to pornography, from rape and violence to terrorism and armed conflict. But this is no hand-wringing exercise. The author's passion for true equality, her analytical skills and her creativity shine from these pages. Her new approaches to accountability have inspired many women to assert their rights and have found their way into domestic law and international instruments. All this, and much more in a truly awesome book.

Meet the Author

Catharine A. MacKinnon is Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.

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